Underrated Taipei, Taiwan一笑
By Lauren Chew | Published Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
Many Americans don’t know where Taiwan is or mistake it for its Southeast Asian cousin, Thailand. However, for those of you unsure of Taiwan’s location, you’re missing out. Whether you’re a budget backpacker or a five-star princess, Taipei has accommodations to fit your bill.
Taipei is the home to some of the best shopping in the world, endless museums, cultural sights, night markets, hot springs, hiking and delicious foods. Its people are friendly and caring and will never hesitate to help you. After a vacation in Taipei, most tourists wonder why more Americans don’t visit this small island off of mainland China.
The shopping in Taipei is some of the best, and rivals New York City and Los Angeles. Trendsetters have many options: luxury department stores surrounding the Taipei 101 and other areas, the wholesale fashion district, Japanese and Korean fashion in XinMenDing and much more. Some of it is downright bizarre, and if you don’t fit the frame of a 5-foot, 90-pound Taiwanese girl, you may face some difficulty buying clothes in the wholesale district. However, department stores usually have a range of sizes, even larger shoes.
The imposing Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial is one of the best cultural sights in the city and is a perfect shot for the aspiring or professional photographer. The building’s architecture is unique for the region and inside the building there is a museum dedicated to the former dictator’s life. Additionally, you can climb the 89 steps to the statue of Chiang Kai-Shek, and may be lucky enough to catch the changing of the guards.
Taipei has a plethora of temples, but Longshan Temple is the one worth noting. Bring your camera or simply light some incense and join the monks in prayer. The temple is dedicated to Guanyin, a deity worshipped around the island, but officially, the temple is nondenominational.
Night markets are perhaps one of the best aspects of Taipei, especially for those who like to snack or shop after sundown. The ShiLin and ShiDa (near National Taiwan Normal University) are some of the best. Come prepared to bargain and shop for cheap jewelry, clothes and electronic accessories, and be ready to get your snack on. During the summer, night markets are the home to bao bing, or shaved ice with your choice of toppings – a perfect way to cool off on a hot summer night. Other snacks include stinky tofu, kebobs, wontons, even chickens’ feet.
The MRT, or subway in Taipei, is very convenient and relatively extensive. You can take the MRT out to Danshui and enjoy a sunset stroll by the water, or the combination of MRT and bus to the Beitou hot springs for a nice soak.
Taiwan should not be passed over on your way to Hong Kong or other large cities. Its food is some of the best in the world, and its buzzing city of Taipei offers endless activities for those with the travel bug.